Published: August 12th 2012August 12th 2012
We visited Lassen National Park next, an experience that proved... less enthralling than we could have hoped. I don't like to start a post with complaints, but we had been led to expect great things from Lassen and it did not deliver. Starting with the crowded, smokey campground, moving on to the ungodly expensive showers and laundry, and finishing with the fact that Bumpass Hell, one of the park's most unique and interesting geothermal areas, was blanketed over by snow, you end up with a less than satisfactory experience. On the other hand, the tiny little geothermal area we did get to go to was pretty cool, being at the bottom of a truly ancient volcano. So ancient in fact, that it no longer exists, with only five peaks in a circle to signify that it once stood. (And, of course, Rascal got to play in the snow, one of his favorite activities. He certainly counted that a successful part of our trip.)
Leaving Lassen, we drove through progressively drier and scrubbier forest. (I really wish I had a botany guide, so I could tell you more about the intersting/beautiful flora we've seen on this trip. For that manner, some guides to the fauna would not be out of place either. Unfortunately, we forgot to pack them from home, and they are not cheap to buy, so we're all out of luck.) On highway 395, we were waved to pass an "Oversized Load" truck by the highway patrol, and had to speed to do so. Few driving experiences are more strange than purposefully driving 15 miles over the speed limit past a black-and-white patrol car, even with their permission to do so.
We entered Nevada, driving across Highway 50, which is billed as "The Lonliest Road in America". This is a fib. We've driven Highway 50 now, and it actually has points of interest and a few small, colorful towns along it. Far more desolate and dull is Highway 6 a little ways north, which we drove about a year ago. Honestly, we were ready to cry tears of joy when we finally came back to civilization from that road.
Anyways, on the 50 we saw a truck full of beehives, and passed through hills with orange and black bands of rock like horizontal tiger stripes. We took a hike around the Grimes Point petroglyph area, where ancient seasonal hunters had etched their presence on the ruddy rocks. We took another walk around the Cold Springs Pony Express stop and telegraph. (Alright, we didn't actually go out to the ruins of the stop itself, which were about 6 miles back from the road on deeply rutted gravel drive. We visited the kiosks about it, maybe 1/2 a mile from road, that had been put up for the Nevada Centennial.)
We camped just a ways down the road at the Cold Springs Motel & RV Park. A pair of cowboys in the main office tried flirting with us, but all I could really focus on was how gross the one guy's teeth were. He must have chewed tobaccy, or something, because they were horrible.
The next morning, we saw pronghorn, their sandy orange coats almost perfectly camoflaging them amongst the sandy orange soil and scrub. We passed through the old mining town of Ely, (most Nevada towns are old mining towns) where there was... some kind of international bike race? There were definitely a lot of bicyclists, and flags from many countries were displayed along the main street, so that's our best guess.
We drove the US-93 north, which was long, boring, and hot. We ended the day at Angel Lake, where our adventures took a decidedly unwelcome turn - our first bout of car trouble had arrived.